Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ?I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,? (Hebrews 13:5, NASB).
The Love of Money – A Tough Topic
Scripture teaches that confessing our sin is good for us. As such, I have been both looking forward to and loathing this post. Writing about God’s perspective on money and our use of it makes me feel somewhat like a hypocrite. Yet, hypocrisy’s greatest enemy is honesty. So, before I move forward and write a word about wisdom and foolishness as it relates to the biblical concept of money, I will make the following three confessions. First, I presently have unpaid debt (which is something that is to be addressed later). Two, I have done some very foolish things with money in my life. Three, I am not nearly as generous as I ought to be.
Having said all of that, let one fool attempt to speak truth to some other people (who may or may not be foolish) regarding this issue of God and money. As I stated previously in this series (here), the problem for the fool is a denial of boundaries. It is an on-going struggle with contentment. “I know you gave me all the other fruit to eat, but I want that one.” Sound familiar? In Adam, we want what we can’t have, no matter how bad it might be for us. It is the desire of the heart, usually, that drives us from wisdom to foolishness. When it comes to money, our attitude toward it, our
use misuse of it, and submission to God’s will related to it, the power of discontentment shows itself with greater evidence than most other issues.
Now, we could blame our money woes and issues on our consumer culture, our society’s “me-first” perspective, etc. The truth of the matter, however, is this: since the Fall and the introduction of some form of “currency exchange”, humanity has wrestled with the love of money. It is not an Eastern/Western problem; it is not an pre-modern/modern/post-modern problem; it is a heart problem.
The Bible and Money
Contemplating the biblical perspective of money can be a tricky thing. There are so many ways to go astray from “health, wealth, prosperity” on one end, to a complete call to poverty on the other. All kinds of foolish debates can be had amounts that should be given, validity of Old versus New Testament texts, the biblical admonitions to both “be frugal” and to “sacrifice all.” So, what does the Bible really have to say to us about money?
First and foremost, the Bible teaches us that money (along with every other physical object on the earth) doesn’t really belong to us. We are not owners in the truest sense of the word, we are managers or stewards. “For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10). Everything comes to us from God’s hand, even the sunshine and rain (Matthew 5:45). The original command given to Adam was a call to exercise dominion over creation – to care for it, work it, cultivate it, and honor God through the process. We still have that same mandate upon us – the resources of the earth are under our charge and are for our good – but they belong to another, and He will call us into account.
Second, the Bible indicates that money can be both a blessing and a hindrance. At the risk of sounding like a prosperity preacher, it is true that God used the presence of financial blessing as a means of demonstrating His favor upon His people (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Israel as a nation, etc. – see Proverbs 10:22). The removal of wealth was often a sign of judgment (check the prophesies of Isaiah and Jeremiah). Yet, some of the greatest warnings given in Scripture are against a love for and lusting after money and the things it can buy. If we are in debt we should “deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter’s hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler” (Proverbs 6:5). Money can’t buy us deliverance from death (Proverbs 11:4). It is better to have little money and peace with God and man, than abundant wealth and turmoil (Proverbs 15:16).
Third, the Bible indicates that money is often used of God to show the condition of the heart. Whether it is full of pride (Mark 12:41), full of fear, or full of faith, each of these can be shown by the use or misuse of God-given resources.
The Problem and the Solution
The problem for each of us as it relates to money is two-fold: it is either a problem of pride or of fear. We often take the opinion that “it is mine and I can do with it what I want to” – thus removing God from the owner and promoting ourselves from the role of steward. This is the picture of pride. Or, we take the opposite perspective and say “but I am not sure what may or may not come, so I am going to keep as much as I can, just in case.” Now, the wisdom literature of the Bible teaches us to invest and to store up – but only some, not all. We have a story in Scripture of a man who stored up everything for himself – and Jesus condemns his actions (Luke 12:13-21).
So, if our problem is pride and fear, what do we do? Well, the solution given in Scripture is to be generous. “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). We are called to live with “open hands.” Nelson Searcy in his book The Generosity Ladder, tells the story of how trappers in India catch monkeys. They cut a small hole in a coconut and tie a string to the other end. They place favorite foods of the monkey into the hole. The monkey then reaches into the hole (with an open hand) and grabs whatever is inside. Because the monkey’s closed fist is too-big to come back out of the hole, the trapper simply pulls the monkey to himself. The catch? No matter how dangerous the situation or scared the monkey may be, he will not let go of what is inside of the coconut to free himself. His unwillingness to let go leads to his own demise. How true that is for us!
Therefore, if our use/misuse of money is really a matter of the heart, then the heart must be impacted. God most often chips away at the heart by removing the idol/obstacle to obedience. So, if I love money (or the stuff it can buy) more than I love God and my fellow man, God will call for a willingness to part with my idol. Now, just as with any transformation, it often feels more painful than full of joy-infused grace–at least at first.
So as one foolish sinner to another – I am going to commit to open my hand up a bit more. I don’t want to be the monkey; I don’t want to be the fool.
Some Helpful Resources and Practical Advise
Some of you reading this may be saying – “Yes! I want to be wise with gift of money God has given. But I have been so foolish to this point, I feel hopeless and lost. I need serious help getting it all together.” The following resources can help teach you how to make and maintain a budget, retire debt, and incorporate increased generosity into your life, all while doing so for the glory of God.